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Freekeh: the Heartier, Tastier, Better-for-You Grain

Done with quinoa? The next time you're craving carbs, try this ancient staple.
Christopher Testani

Freekeh has been waiting a couple of thousand years for its moment in the spotlight, and it’s finally arrived. This ancient grain (meaning it hasn’t been altered and hybridized in labs over the years like modern wheat and corn) with Middle Eastern origins is even supplanting quinoa as the go-to healthy carb.

“I’m not surprised freekeh has been trending,” says Jim White, owner of Jim White Fitness & Nutrition Studios in Virginia Beach, VA. “It’s very versatile—the perfect carb to help you get lean.”

What makes freekeh ideal is its low glycemic index score (meaning it has less of an effect on your blood sugar) which prevents the spikes and falls that spur snack cravings. Plus, it has about twice as much fiber as quinoa. “And complex carbs help rebuild muscle,” White says.

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Another big plus: Freekeh cooks much the same way quinoa, brown rice, and even oatmeal do, but it has a more robust flavor: The green wheat is fire-roasted after harvest, giving it a slightly smoky taste. Toast it and add it to salad or yogurt, or turn it into dinner by adding a protein like chicken, fish, or steak.

“Or get more creative,” says White. “Freekeh can be made into vegetarian burgers and soups.”

Freekeh is so idiotproof (add it to boiling water in a 2-to-1 water-to-grain ratio and simmer 20 minutes), you’ll want to make it a diet staple.

Here’s one way to do it: a freekeh dinner bowl created just for us by Gerardo Gonzalez of NYC’s El Rey Coffee Bar & Luncheonette, who feeds some of downtown’s top marathoners.

Sesame Freekeh with Seared Shrimp

3 plums, diced Salt
1/3 cup rice wine vinegar
1 lb large shrimp
31/2 cups freekeh, cooked (see left)
1/2 cup mint, finely cut
3/4 cup white sesame seeds, toasted
1 cup celery, thinly sliced on a bias
1/2 cup scallion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1/2 cup white sesame oil
11/2 tspchiliorAleppo pepper flakes
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
11/2 tsp sumac (optional)

1)  Season plums with salt, cover with rice wine vinegar, and let sit till plums turn bright red. Mix in a blender till smooth. 

2)  Sauté shrimp on the stove top. (Rockfish or red snapper can also be used.) 

3)  Mix freekeh with mint, sesame seeds, plum sauce (reserve a small amount), celery, scallion, and cilantro. Toss in sesame oil till glossy but not overdressed. 

4)  Top freekeh with shrimp, chili flakes, lemon juice, and zest, sumac, and remaining plum sauce.

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